Friday, December 07, 2007

Oh What Fun It is to Make...

Advent Calendar, December 7: Grab Bag

During the 1960s, Mom often browsed her magazines in search of inexpensive crafts to make in time for the holidays. There were more craft materials available to consumers than ever before, and at reasonable prices. Before modern media took a firm hold of our ears and tugged us into a heavily commercialized future, homemade gifts were common. They were fun to plan and make, and the recipient usually appreciated the effort, even if the end result didn't quite have that "je ne sais quoi."

--Large glass marbles baked on high heat in the oven and then cracked in cold water made spectacular pendant necklaces.

--A couple of hours spent knitting little multi-colored squares and sewing them together created nice doll afghans, especially in popular colors of the day: harvest gold, orange, beige, and chocolate brown.

One time, Mom found a fox fur remnant at a second hand store and made lined fur stoles for my sister, my cousin, and myself, or rather, for our Barbies. We felt like queens!

She also saved prescription bottles--clear plastic back then--and made little angels or elves using bits of paper, pipe cleaners, tiny styrofoam balls, sequins, and angel hair. Once the figures were glued into the bottle and a hook was attached to the lid, they made unique Christmas tree ornaments.

One craft I particularly enjoyed was making "fish" bathroom decorations using little more than a bar of soap, pastel-colored netting, sequins, pins, and beads. I was proud of the fish we made in so many beautiful colors (lavender was my favorite); I wish I had a photograph to show. If there is a child in your life, she/he would love your help in making one of these.

So, here is a description of how to make a SweetHeart soap fish, at least as far as my fuzzy memory allows:

To make a SweetHeart soap fish:
  • Use an oval bar of soap as the body for your "fish." SweetHeart soaps were traditionally used for this craft because of their light, sweet scent, and they can still be purchased at The Vermont Country Store.

  • Cut a large square of pastel-colored netting; position it around the soap and tie the ends together with a small strip of netting to make a fan-type tail.

  • Take four hat pins with elongated pearl tips; place other shiny or pearlescent beads on the hat pin to fill up about 2/3 of the pin. Stick all four hat pins into the bottom of the soap (through the netting), and position them apart at outward angles, creating four "legs" for the fish to stand on.

  • Using three more hat pins (decorate those with extra beads, too), insert them at an angle into the top edge of the soap to create a "fin." You'll want to graduate the lengths: the longest pin should be closer to the head of the fish, while the shortest should be placed closer to the tail. You may also use hat pins, or extra netting, on each side of the fish to create side fins.

  • A heart-shaped red sequin should be pinned to the front of the soap for a mouth (use a small-head sewing pin).

  • An eye (one on each side of the soap) can be made from a small shiny black sequin pinned onto a larger, silver flower-shaped sequin. Once again, pin them together, on the fish, using a small head sewing pin.

Is your fish standing level? Does it have eyes, a mouth, a tail, and fins? Then, voila, you have it, a vintage Christmas craft. Place it on a bathroom shelf and watch the child in your life--or the child in you--smile.

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